Happiness is like the elusive butterfly that we all chase; the more we chase it, the more it flits away.
This truth is based on a quote attributed to Henry David Thoreau.
However, a growing number of psychologists are of the opinion that today people can 'chase after the elusive butterfly and make it sit on their shoulder'. This metaphorical statement implies that by monitoring the workings of the mind, anything can be made possible. David T.Lykken, author of the book "Happiness: Its nature and nurture says that happiness is determined by our genes to a large extent. Every person has a 'happiness set point' and there are only slight deviations.
But extensive research is now showing that happiness can be pursued; in fact the key to happiness is knowing where to look for it. A University of Texas professor who has done considerable research on the subject concludes that even intelligent and successful people don't always make life choices that bring happiness. There are five key areas that he has identified which directly affect our wellbeing and all these are within our control.
1. Not running after happiness - obsessing about feeling happy is best avoided; instead, increasing the odds of feeling happy in any situation without sacrificing it for other things is crucial. Recognizing what makes us happy and prioritizing to find the right balance is a must.
2. Taking responsibility - the ability and power to control our feeling and thoughts is in our hands and blaming others for unhappy outcomes leads to unhappiness.
3. Comparisons bring misery - doing the catch-up game with colleagues, friends, relatives and others in relating happiness to feeling a sense of superiority over others can only make us keep running all the time. Less comparison with other people brings more happiness.
4. Following the flow - Goals and aspirations keep changing constantly and happiness may remain elusive forever. 'Being in the moment' makes us realize how much happiness we can gain.
5. Trusting people more, even strangers - the perception of trust makes people happier. Distrust causes constant irritation and happiness; even a little bit of faith in strangers is a strong indication of a happy mind.
Psychologists who have studied happy people in communities around the world share the reasons why some people are happier than others.
• Choosing to be happy and not worrying - consciously choosing attitudes and behaviors that bring happiness is the right decision
• Cultivating gratitude - being thankful and grateful moves people away from despair and bitterness
• Fostering forgiveness - nursing grievances and grudges affects physical and mental health; forgiveness reduces the effects of bad events that create resentment
• Learning to recognize and counteracting negative feeling and thoughts - promotes serenity and dispels anxiety
• Understanding that money cannot buy happiness - the more the money, less the happiness. No matter what is achieved in the pursuit of our goals, it will never bring about a lasting state of happiness.